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Politicising Europe in the Transnational Electoral Arena: A Comparative Analysis of Twitter Audiences in European Democracies during the 2019 EP Campaign

Elections
European Union
Nationalism
Political Parties
Populism
Internet
Euroscepticism
Mixed Methods
Caterina Froio
Sciences Po Paris
Caterina Froio
Sciences Po Paris
Ralph Schroeder
University of Oxford
Sebastian Stier
GESIS, Leibniz

Abstract

While an increasing number of contributions addresses the politicization of the EU at the domestic level, it is still contested whether, when and to what extent EU issues are politicized in transnational political arenas. The paper addresses this gap by studying the initiators and the EU-issues that are favored in online exchanges between audiences of EP 2019 political candidates across European democracies including France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy and Sweden. We use a new dataset on the activities of political candidates and their audiences on Twitter that is analyzed through a mixed methods approach. Using social network analysis, we detect transnational links between candidates across countries based on retweets from audiences of candidates' Twitter users. Retweets are qualitatively coded for content and compared to the content retweeted within national communities. Finally, using a logistic regression, we quantify the level to which specific issues and candidates enjoy high levels of attention across borders. Subsequently, we use content analysis to reconstruct the interpretative frames accompanying these patterns. The results suggest that Europe is nowadays politicized in the transnational arena and we find three paths of transnational politicization. One is brought by candidates and audiences of radical right parties. The other is a conflict between mainstream parties in government and opposition. Another path is brought by candidates and audiences of radical left parties. For all, questions related to EU membership have a crucial role and identitarian and economic framing strategies are used.